The Winning of Popular Government - A Chronicle of the Union of 1841
by Archibald Macmechan
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These two men, Robert Baldwin, with his {72} high principle and solid character, and Francis Hincks, with his talent for affairs, are figures of prime importance in this critical stage of the experiment called responsible government.

But the new province of Canada, as a union of French and English populations, demanded, as a natural consequence, a union in leadership. The French-Canadian politician, who in his own province represented Moderate Reform, was Louis Hippolyte LaFontaine. His grandfather had been a member of the old Assembly of Lower Canada; his father was a farmer at Boucherville in Chambly, where Louis Hippolyte was born in 1804. Educated at the college of Montreal, he afterwards studied law and began to practise in that city. In 1830 he was elected member for Terrebonne, and soon showed himself in the House to be a thoroughgoing follower of Papineau and an agitator for radical change. But when reform passed over into rebellion and an appeal to armed force, he tried to dissuade his compatriots from their mad enterprise, and also approached the governor, Lord Gosford, with a proposal to assemble parliament, in order to prevent further violence. He then went to England, from {73} motives which do not seem clear. Fearing arrest in that country for his share in the agitation before the rebellion, he fled to France. He did not, in fact, return to Canada until May 1838, when he was caught in the widespread net of arrests and spent several painful and indignant months in the Montreal jail, demanding release, but in vain. Incarceration for a political offence is a rare event in the career of a chief justice and an English baronet, as this prisoner was to be later. Arrested on suspicion, he was released without trial. On the tragic collapse of the extremists LaFontaine became the hope of the moderate men among the French-Canadian politicians. Like the most of his compatriots, he was strongly opposed to the union of the Canadas, as threatening the extinction of his nationality; but seeing no possible alternative to union, he made it his fixed policy to win, by constitutional methods, whatever could be won for his people. In appearance he was strikingly like the first Napoleon, the resemblance being noticed by the old soldiers when he visited the Hotel des Invalides at Paris. A contemporary cartoon, representing him flinging money to the habitants, shows the likeness, even to the {74} lock of hair on the forehead, more plainly than his portrait. His few years of leadership in parliament, though of great importance to the country, formed only an episode in a larger legal career.

In the elections of 1841 LaFontaine was defeated; it is said, by illegal methods. Baldwin was returned for two constituencies, York and Hastings, and Hincks for Oxford, on the strength of his articles in the Examiner. Bitterly disappointed as LaFontaine was at his defeat and the means by which it was accomplished, he could see no hope of redress except by constitutional means. For the present he could do no more than protest angrily at the injustice. He was, however, not long excluded from the House. Through the good offices of Baldwin he was elected for the fourth riding of York, an act of courtesy and common sense which was not to lose its reward.

Such was the posture of affairs when Sydenham died.

The next governor-general of Canada was Sir Charles Bagot, the Tory nominee of the now Tory government of Great Britain. Bagot's familiar portrait in the full insignia of the Order of the Bath shows us the {75} handsome, thoroughbred face of a typical English gentleman. Although Queen Victoria doubted his ability for the post, her distrust was unfounded. Bagot was a man of broad experience and calm wisdom. He possessed poise and real kindness of heart, as well as real courtesy; but he seems also to have been too sensitive to criticism and to opposition. He reached Kingston, the seat of his government, in January 1842. Visits to the various centres of Canada, according to the practice of his predecessors, soon gave him an understanding of popular opinion and feeling; and, although he was expected by the extreme Conservatives to bring back the old, halcyon, ante bellum days, he was most careful to follow the lines of Sydenham's policy. Towards the French he was amiable and conciliatory and made several appointments of French Canadians to positions of trust and emolument. Ever ready to meet courtesy half-way, the French gave their new governor their entire confidence.

During the eight months before parliament should reassemble Bagot wisely set about learning for himself the actual conditions of his new government. Like Sydenham, he was to act as his own prime minister, and {76} his initial difficulty was in forming a suitable Cabinet to act with him. He offered Hincks the post of inspector-general, corresponding in effect to minister of Finance, and Hincks accepted it. He offered the post of solicitor-general to Richard Cartwright (grandfather of the Sir Richard Cartwright of a later day), who refused it because Hincks was in the Cabinet. The position was finally filled by Henry Sherwood, who was, like Cartwright, a Conservative. To LaFontaine the governor offered the attorney-generalship in the most courteous terms, but, for a number of reasons, LaFontaine declined to accept it. Bagot's plan was to form a coalition government, which should embrace all interests; but the Reformers refused to take their place in a Cabinet which contained men of the opposite party. So William Henry Draper, who had acted under Sydenham, continued as leader of a composite Cabinet under Bagot.

The House met at Kingston on September 8, 1842. In the game of Ins and Outs the debate on the Address is recognized as a trial of strength, as a method of ascertaining which party is in a majority. It was found that the Draper government did not command the confidence of the House; and, after a spirited {77} fight, Draper resigned and made way for a new ministry, led by LaFontaine and Baldwin. The principle involved, which seems now the merest common sense, was then scouted as government 'by dint of miserable majorities.' Sullivan was the senior member in the new ministry, though it is known by the names of its leaders. It included Hincks and five other members of the previous Cabinet.

In accordance with another rule of the political game the new ministers had to seek re-election. LaFontaine was peaceably returned for his 'pocket borough,' the fourth riding of York, but the candidacy of Baldwin for Hastings had another issue. In those good old days of open voting an election was no such tame affair as walking into a booth and marking a cross on a piece of paper opposite a name. An election lasted for days or even weeks. There was only one polling-place for the district, and an election was rarely held without an election row. It seems impossible that it is of Canada one reads: 'A number of shanty-men having no votes were hired by Mr Baldwin's party to create a disturbance. They did so and ill-treated Mr Murney's supporters. The latter, however, {78} rallied and drove their dastardly assailants from the field. Two companies of the 23rd Regiment were sent from Kingston to keep the peace, and polling was most unjustly discontinued for one day.' Free fights between bands of rival voters armed with clubs, swords, and firearms, injuries from which men were not expected to recover, order restored by the intervention of the military—these were no unusual incidents in an old-time Canadian election. The contest in Hastings was of this description, and Baldwin was defeated. He stood for election in the second riding of York, and he was again defeated. Finally LaFontaine did for him what he had done for LaFontaine. The French member for Rimouski resigned his seat, and Baldwin was returned for it in January 1843. The French leader and the English leader had thus given unmistakable proofs of their sincere desire to be friends and to work together for the common weal. French and English were found at last working in harmony, side by side. They had formed the first colonial ministry on the approved constitutional model.

The new idea was fiercely assailed. To the British colonial partisan of that day it {79} seemed the height of absurdity to entrust the government of the country to men who had done their best to wreck that government but a few years before. The Tories would have been more than human if they were not exasperated to see actual rebels like Girouard, who fought with rebels at St Eustache, offered a position in the Cabinet. They could not, as yet, accept the hard saying of Macaulay: 'There is only one cure for the evils which newly-acquired freedom produces, and that cure is freedom.' How would they have regarded Britain's three years' war with the Dutch republics of South Africa and the entrusting of them immediately afterwards to the Boers and General Louis Botha? For accepting the principle of popular government, that the majority must rule, Bagot was assailed with an inhuman vehemence, which astounds the reader of the present day by its venom and its indecency. Because the governor was a just man and loyally followed constitutional usage, he was abused as a fool and a traitor not only in the colony but in England. It is small wonder that his health began to give way under the strain.

That historical first session of 1842 was {80} very short; it lasted only a month. Nor could it be said to have accomplished very much in the way of actual legislation. The criticism of the opposition press was not ill-founded—that there was much cry and little wool. That the criticism was made at all shows how much was expected from the establishment of a principle. Mankind has a pathetic faith in the efficacy of political machinery, remade or remodelled, to grind out happiness and bring in the Age of Gold. None the less, a great political principle had been affirmed, and had been seen in triumphant action. The new constitution was at last set on its legs, and, at last, it really did begin to 'march.'

Shortly after the session closed Bagot's administration came to an end. The governor was no longer young, and the factious opposition in the colony and the want of support in England wrought upon his health and spirits. The oncoming of the bitter Canadian winter tried severely the shaken man. On medical advice he resigned his post, but when his resignation was accepted he was too ill to travel. He too died at 'Alwington,' Kingston, on May 30, 1843; but the voice of rancorous detraction was not hushed around {81} his death-bed. 'Imbecile' and 'slave' were among the milder terms of abuse. Bagot was the second governor in swift succession to render up his life in the discharge of his duty. And he was not the last. It was as if some blight or curse rested on the office which made it fatal to the holder. The Canadian treatment of Bagot, a high-minded gentleman who honestly performed a thankless task, should make every Canadian hang his head.

Bagot's successor was Sir Charles Metcalfe. He arrived at Kingston from the American side on March 29, 1843, in a close-bodied sleigh drawn by four greys. His experience must have been novel since he landed at Boston and posted overland to reach the capital of the colony. The whole country was still deep in snow and must have presented the strangest aspect to a man who had spent his life in the tropics. He was received at the foot of Arthur Street by an enthusiastic concourse of citizens, with appropriate ceremony and show. 'A thorough-looking Englishman with a jolly visage,' as he was characterized by an eye-witness, he made a favourable first impression upon the people of his government.


Metcalfe had received his training as a 'writer' in the old East India Company and must have been a contemporary of Thackeray's Joseph Sedley. He was born in India, at Lecture House, Calcutta, on January 30, 1785. Eleven years later he entered Eton, where he at once evinced remarkable powers of application and a marked distaste for athletic sports, two traits which would mark him off as an oddity from the herd of English schoolboys. At the age of sixteen he was back in the land of his birth. His was a distinguished career. By 1827 he had risen to membership in the Supreme Council of India. Later he acted as provisional governor-general, and obtained the Grand Cross of the Bath. In 1838 he resigned his position and became governor of Jamaica. Perhaps the most significant incident in his career was his fighting as a volunteer in the storming of Deeg, on Christmas Day 1804. The courage which sends a civilian into a desperate hand-to-hand fight, to which he is not obliged to go, must be above proof. Metcalfe had no pecuniary interest in his position. He was a wealthy man, who spent far more than his official salary in the various ways a governor-general {83} is expected to bestow largesse. His 'jolly visage' bore the marks of a cruel and incurable disease. He is still remembered in India as the author of the bill which established the freedom of the press. The historian Macaulay calls him 'the ablest civil servant I ever knew in India.' Durham, Sydenham, Bagot, Metcalfe—Britain had few more distinguished or more able servants of the state; and they devoted all their powers, without a thought of the cost to themselves, to solving a vital problem in the maintenance of the Empire. Their more obvious rewards were obloquy and death.

The misfortune of Metcalfe was that his entire political training had been gained in governing subject races, Hindus in India and negroes in Jamaica, races 'so accustomed to be trampled on by the strong that they always consider humanity as a sign of weakness.' Now old, and fixed in his mental set, autocratic as an Indian civil servant must be, he came to deal with a rude, unlicked, white democracy, impatient of control as Durham discovered, and acutely jealous of its rights. In theory Metcalfe should have been most sympathetic, for in English politics he was an advanced Whig, strongly in favour of such {84} popular measures as abolition of the Corn Laws, vote by ballot, the extension of the franchise. Besides, he was honestly desirous of playing the peacemaker. None the less, his administration was marked by a reaction towards the old Tory state of affairs, and produced a ministerial crisis which threatened to bring back the reign of Chaos and old Night.

The primal difficulty lay in the governor's mental attitude. He saw with perfect clearness what had already been done. Durham had enunciated a theory, which Sydenham had put into effect by being his own minister, and Bagot had followed resolutely in Sydenham's footsteps. The group of colonial officials known as the Executive Council had in the meantime tasted power. They now ventured to speak of themselves as 'ministers,' as a 'cabinet,' as the 'government,' as the 'administration'; and these terms, with their corollaries and implications, had met with general acceptance. But Metcalfe considered them inadmissible, as limiting too much the power of the governor, and, as a consequence, the authority he represented. He was determined not to be a mere figurehead on the ship of state; he would {85} be captain, in undisputed command. Theoretically, if he were to be guided solely by the advice of the local ministry, he would be 'responsible' to them instead of to his sovereign; his office would be a nullity, and the difference between a colony and an independent state would have disappeared. Theoretically Metcalfe and the Tory pamphleteers who supported him were right in their contentions. Complete freedom to manage its own affairs should, if logic were strictly followed, separate the colony from the mother country; but the British genius for compromise has met the difficulty in a thoroughly British way by avoiding any precise and rigid definition of the relations existing between the mother country and the daughter state. That 'mere sentiment' should hold the two more firmly together than the most deftly worded treaty or legal enactment is proved to the world in these later days by the sacrifices of Canada to the common cause during the Great War. But there was little reason for holding this belief in the forties of the nineteenth century. Conflict between a masterful governor like Metcalfe, accustomed to the old order, and political leaders like Baldwin and LaFontaine, trying to {86} bring in a new order, was inevitable; their modes of thought were diametrically opposed; the only question was when the clash should come.

The third session of the first parliament of Canada opened towards the end of September 1843. In an Assembly of eighty-four members the party of Reform numbered sixty, an overwhelming majority; for the rapprochement between the sympathetic parties of the two provinces was now complete. The leader of the opposition was Sir Allan MacNab of Caroline fame, a typical soldier-politician, narrow but honest in his views, and, like his countryman Alan Breck, a 'bonny fighter.' It was a momentous session. Reform was firmly in the saddle at last. No opposition could hope to defeat whatever measure the government might choose to bring forward. Nor could the government be reproached, as before, with merely talking and doing nothing. Much legislation of the first importance stands to its credit. One of the measures passed at this session provided that the seat of government should be removed from Kingston to the commercial metropolis, Montreal. For how short a time Montreal should have this honour, none could imagine {87} or foresee. By another wise measure placemen were removed from the Assembly; that is to say, permanent officials, such as judges and registrars, could not hold their positions and be members of parliament. For this important change LaFontaine was responsible, as well as for another bill which simplified the judicial system of Lower Canada. An attempt was made to bridle the turbulence of Irish factions, which had brought to Canada the long-standing, cankered quarrels of the Old World. A bill was passed to suppress all secret societies except the Freemasons. It was, of course, aimed straight at the Orange Society, that vigorous politico-religious organization which preserves the memory of a Dutch prince and of a battle he fought in the seventeenth century. To this bill Metcalfe did not assent, but 'reserved' it, as was his undoubted right, for the royal sanction. In the end that sanction was not given, and the Act did not become law. The 'reserving' of this bill seems to have occasioned little comment; but, as will be seen in a subsequent chapter, the refusal of another governor to 'reserve' another bill caused a storm. Hincks, the man of finance, gave the country 'protection' against the {88} competition of the American farmer, a political device which was destined to much wider use. The all-important matter of education received the attention of the Assembly. What had been done before was, most significantly, to make provision for higher education by establishing 'grammar schools' in the different districts, as foundations for the superstructure of a university. It might have been called a provision for aristocratic education. Now a measure became law for the better support of the common schools. This was provision for democratic education, a necessary corollary to popular government, for if Demos is to rule, Demos cannot be left in ignorance; the peril of an ignorant ruler is too frightful.

Then came the difficult problem of the provincial university. It is interesting to note how the educational history of one Canadian province is repeated in another. In Nova Scotia, King's College was founded by the exiled Loyalists from the United States towards the end of the eighteenth century. It was the child of the Church of England. The first bishop of Nova Scotia secured for it the support of the provincial Assembly. Naturally, it was modelled on the {89} great English university of Oxford, and, like the Oxford of that day, was designed solely for the education of those within the pale of the national church. But this provincial university, which has the honour of being the oldest in the British dominions overseas, was supported by public funds partly contributed by 'dissenters,' whose creed excluded them from it. Only at the price of their religious principles could the 'dissenters' of Nova Scotia obtain the boon of higher education. Therefore they set to work to found an independent 'academy' of their own. In Upper Canada events marched down the same road. There, another privileged 'King's College,' exclusively Anglican, was founded early in the nineteenth century, and richly endowed with public lands. The excluded 'dissenters' set about founding colleges of their own; and thus Queen's College and Victoria College took their rise. Robert Baldwin had the vision of a comprehensive state university, on a broad non-denominational basis, in which all these colleges should be component parts. He brought in a bill to found the University of Toronto, a measure on which time has set its approving seal. The many stately buildings which adorn {90} Queen's Park, the long distinguished roll of graduates, the noble group of affiliated colleges, Knox, St Michael's, Trinity, Wycliffe, Victoria, attest the wisdom of Baldwin's far-seeing measure. Bishop Strachan, the doughty Aberdonian champion of Anglican rights and privileges, led a crusade against this 'godless institution' and raised the cry of spoliation. The echoes of that wordy warfare have even now hardly died away. Having failed to prevent the founding of Toronto, the indefatigable bishop founded a new Anglican university, Trinity, which in the fullness of time was merged in the great provincial university. But this is to anticipate. Baldwin's bill had reached its second reading, when the ministry blew up.

In the end of November the inevitable clash occurred. Metcalfe was no believer in responsible government as understood by the Reformers; and he was determined to uphold the prerogative of the Crown. For one thing, he was not going to surrender the right of appointment. He had made several appointments without consulting his ministers. When, on his own authority, he appointed a clerk of the peace, they determined to make it a test case. They considered that, by {91} ignoring them, he had violated an important constitutional principle; and when they were unable to convince him cf this in a personal conference, they resigned in a body (with a single exception) on November 26, 1843. This produced what is known as the Metcalfe Crisis. In a formal statement before the House the Reformers took the ground that they could not be 'responsible' for appointments made without their knowledge. The governor was to act on their advice; but he had acted without giving them a chance to advise him. Metcalfe, on the other hand, maintained that the Reformers wanted him to surrender the patronage of the Crown 'for the purchase of parliamentary support.' He opposed patronage for party purposes. Let the long history of political appointments since that day, of patronage committees, attest that the governor was partly in the right. The formal statements of both sides in the dispute were at once made public and produced a popular furore, second in intensity only to that which had led up to and attended the rebellion. Sydenham's confidence that his work could not be undone by any successor seemed for a time ill-founded.

The resignation of the ministry was only {92} the opening gun in a political campaign, the object of which was to drive the governor from office. On laying the reasons for their action before the House the ministry received an enthusiastic vote of confidence; but their resignation took effect, and on the ninth of December the Assembly was prorogued. Both parties then set the battle in array against the coming election. An agitation of almost unparalleled violence began. Public meetings, banquets, speeches, pamphlets, newspapers, all contributed not so much to agitate as to convulse the country. For all his easy manner Metcalfe was an indomitable fighter, and into this, his last fight, he threw himself with an amazing energy. And he did not have to fight alone. There was no little dislike for the LaFontaine-Baldwin Cabinet and no slight exultation when it was supposed to be 'dismissed' by a loyal and manly governor. There is no doubt that in this struggle Metcalfe overstepped the metes and bounds within which a colonial governor could rightly act. He abandoned any attitude of official impartiality. He espoused the cause of one party, and used his great influence to aid that party to power. In the meantime he had no executive, or an executive of one; and all {93} through the summer of 1844 he was tireless in his efforts to persuade men of standing to accept office under Draper. The crux of the situation was to obtain French-Canadian support for an English Tory governor. One prominent Frenchman after another was 'approached,' but without success. Finally Metcalfe managed to scrape together a ministry which included such noted French Canadians as 'Beau' Viger and D. B. Papineau, a brother of the leader of '37. Then, having dissolved the Assembly, the governor issued writs for a new election. That election in the autumn of 1844 was attended with great riot and disorder. Both sides resorted to violence. When the House assembled, it was found that Metcalfe and the Tories had triumphed. The Reformers were in the minority. While Lower Canada had returned LaFontaine with a strong following, the western province had sent a phalanx to support the governor. Among the other curiosities of this remarkable election was the defeat of Viger by Wolfred Nelson, lately in arms against Her Majesty's government. In this contest a young lawyer of Scottish descent carried Kingston for the Tories. He was destined to go far. His name was John Alexander Macdonald.


Metcalfe had triumphed, but he held power by a very narrow majority; the parties stood forty-six to thirty-eight. In the usual trial of strength—the election of a Speaker—Sir Allan MacNab was chosen by a majority of only three votes. And yet Draper, that expert balancer on the tight rope, managed to carry on a government under these conditions for three full years. Perceiving that he must secure the support of the French if his party was to survive at all, he adroitly brought in favourite Reform measures as if they were his own, thus cutting the ground from under his opponents' feet. For example, English had been made the sole official language of the legislature. Now, the astute party leader managed to get this obnoxious clause in the Act of Union repealed. He even went further and endeavoured to win over the French-Canadian party wholesale by offering desirable positions; but in this intrigue he failed.

In the meantime the Act appointing a new capital had come into effect. Kingston gave place to Montreal, for a season. The huge Ste Anne's market building in the west of the city was turned into a parliament house, destined to the fate of Troy. Here was held {95} the session of 1844-45. Such legislation as was passed had no direct bearing on the question of responsible government. Before the session ended news came that the home government intended to raise the governor to the peerage as Baron Metcalfe of Fern Hill. His brief two years in Canada formed only an episode in the long career of a distinguished public servant. He had made his name and spent his life in India. The contemplated honour was well deserved; and it was designed by the home government as recognition of his services to the state as a whole, rather than as special approval of his administration of Canada. But so the Reformers construed Metcalfe's elevation; and they were furious. Even the moderate Baldwin was betrayed into unwonted vehemence. What would have happened, if Metcalfe had remained in office, none can tell. Perhaps a second civil war. But 'death cut the inextricable knot.' His deadly disease returned after a delusive interval, as is its hideous custom. His health failed; the cancer ate into his eye and destroyed the sight. It was apparent that he could no longer perform the duties of his office. He asked to be recalled; but the authorities at {96} home, knowing of his malady, had anticipated his desire. The courage that sent the boy 'writer' into the deadly assault on Deeg sustained the old proconsul through the slow torture of the months of life remaining to him. He quitted Canada in November 1845, a dying man, and, to the shame of Canada, amid the untimely exultation of his political opponents. In less than a year he was dead. Macaulay composed his epitaph. Metcalfe was a man of mark; and he had his share in building up the British Empire. His name distinguishes a street in Ottawa and a hall in Calcutta; and his statue stands in the former capital of Jamaica.




On Metcalfe's departure from Canada the administration passed into the hands of Lord Cathcart, commander-in-chief of the forces. He was one of the many fine soldiers who have had their part in the upbuilding of Canada and whose services have received the very slightest recognition. Of an ancient Scottish family, he had fought in the great Napoleonic wars from Maida to Waterloo, where he had greatly distinguished himself. After the peace he had turned his attention to the study of natural science, and he had made some important contributions to mineralogy. Cathcart held office from November 26, 1845, until January 30, 1847, some fourteen months. He wisely left Canadian politics to Canadian politicians, and merely watched the machinery revolve. At first he was merely administrator, but, on danger threatening from the unsettled dispute over {98} the Oregon boundary, he was raised to the rank of governor-general.

His successor was also a Scot, James Bruce, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, directly descended from the patriot king Robert the Bruce. His father was the British ambassador who salvaged the 'Elgin marbles' from the Parthenon and sold them to the nation, thus drawing down upon himself the angry satire of Byron in 'The Curse of Minerva' and 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.' The new governor-general was young, poor, and able. Far more than his predecessors, he had enjoyed the advantages of a regular education. At Eton he had Gladstone for a school-mate, and at Oxford he was in the same college with Dalhousie, the future governor-general of India. He was also distinguished in two ways: he was a sincere Christian of the devout evangelical type, and he had a gift of speech that would have been remarkable in any man, but was remarkable most of all in a high official of a rather tongue-tied race. His native gift of eloquence was carefully cultivated and proved to be of great value in many points in his public career. His family ties are interesting. His first wife, a Miss Bruce, met a tragic fate. The vessel in which {99} she accompanied her husband to the West Indies was wrecked on the voyage out; she never recovered from the shock and exposure, and died not long after. His second wife was a daughter of Lord Durham and a niece of Earl Grey, who was, in 1845, colonial secretary, and to whose influence Elgin owed his appointment as governor-general. He was thoroughly well qualified for the post. At the same time it was a way of providing for a relative who was not rich. Like Metcalfe, Lord Elgin came to Canada by way of Jamaica, which he had administered in the dark days that followed the emancipation of the slaves. His broad training, his Liberal politics, his family affiliations all predisposed him to accept the role which Metcalfe had definitely refused, the role, namely, of a constitutional governor-general, guided solely by the advice of a ministry representing the majority in parliament. In other words, Elgin had his mind made up to conform entirely to the principle of responsible government as understood in the colony. He was not long in the country before he made his intentions public; and to his fixed policy he adhered through good report and through evil report, at no small cost to himself, for {100} never were a Canadian governor-general's principles put to a more severe test.

Elgin reached Montreal in the end of January 1847, and was heartily welcomed by both political parties. He, on his part, was ready to admire the 'perfectly independent inhabitants' of this 'glorious country,' whose demeanour was certainly not that of the recently liberated slaves in his former satrapy. The 'independent inhabitants' voted him 'democratic' for walking out to 'Monklands' in a blizzard, when hardly any one else was stirring abroad. He was made welcome for another reason. The experiment of popular government was not working particularly well. The constitution did really 'march,' but with ominous creakings and groanings, which seemed to threaten a complete break-down. This must be the case with every government which tried to perform its functions with but a small majority at its back. The unanimous welcome accorded to the governor-general by both sides of politics implied a belief that somehow or other he could find a way out of the present difficulties and induce the governmental machine to work smoothly. It was a faith in the efficacy of the god from the machine. {101} The Draper government was growing weaker and weaker, being continually defeated in the House, and consequently discredited before the country. Its difficulties were increased by events outside of Canada over which the government could have no control. The hideous Irish famine of 1846-47 had its reaction upon Canada, for thousands of starving emigrants tried to escape to the new land, and, after enduring the long-drawn horrors of the middle passage, reached Canada only to die like plague-stricken sheep of fever and sheer misery. The monument at Grosse Isle does not tell half the shame and suffering of that tragic time. And the Draper government showed no ability to cope with the problem. At length, in December 1847, Lord Elgin dissolved the House and a new election took place. It resulted in a complete victory at the polls for the party of Reform. The leaders, Baldwin, LaFontaine, and Hincks, were all returned. Only a handful of the other party came back; but among them were Sir Allan MacNab and the young Kingston lawyer, John A. Macdonald.

The new House met on February 25, 1848. In the trial of strength over the Speakership the Reformers won. Sir Allan MacNab was {102} again the nominee of the Tories; Baldwin nominated his friend, Morin, who had command of both French and English, a necessary qualification for the presiding officer of a bilingual parliament. And Morin was chosen Speaker by a large majority. In accordance with the rules the remnant of the Draper ministry resigned, and LaFontaine and Baldwin formed a new Cabinet. This is known in Canadian history as the 'Great Administration,' which lasted until the retirement in 1851 of both the noted leaders from public life. The distinction is well deserved, not only on account of the high character of the leaders, and the value of the political principles affirmed and put in practice, but also on account of the permanent value of the legislative programme which it carried to successful completion. The ensuing session was very short; for time was needed to prepare the various important measures which the Reformers intended to bring forward. The troubled year of European revolution, 1848, was rather colourless in the annals of Canada; not so the year which followed.

The eventful session of 1849 opened on the eighteenth of January, in a parliament building improvised out of St Anne's market near {103} what is now Place d'Youville, Montreal. The Speech from the Throne announces a programme of the more important measures to be brought before parliament. In this case the Speech was a promise to deal with such vital matters as electoral reform, the University of Toronto, the improvement of the judicial system, and the completion of the St Lawrence canals. It also contained two announcements most gratifying to the French: first, that amnesty was to be offered to all political offenders implicated in the troubles of '37-'38; and second, that the clause in the Act of Union which made English the sole official language had been repealed. The governor-general displayed his tact and his goodwill by reading the Speech in French as well as in English, a custom which has continued ever since.

A striking incident in the opening debate on the Address was the passage at arms between LaFontaine and Papineau, between the new and the old leader of French-Canadian political opinion. In '37 Papineau had roused his countrymen to armed resistance of the government; but he had wisely refrained from placing himself at the head of the insurgents. Together with his secretary, {104} O'Callaghan, he had witnessed the fight at St Denis from the other side of the river, but took no part in it. He had afterwards reached the American border in safety. From the United States he had passed over to France, where he had consorted with some of the advanced thinkers of the capital. In 1843 LaFontaine, by his personal exertions with Metcalfe, was able to gain for his exiled chief the privilege of returning without penalty to his native land. Papineau, however, did not avail himself of the privilege until four years later; he found life in Paris quite to his taste. A curious result of his return, a pardoned rebel, was his claiming and receiving from the provincial treasury the nine years' arrearage of salary due to him as Speaker in the old Assembly of Lower Canada. In the elections of 1847 he stood for St Maurice, and he was elected. In the new parliament he took the role of irreconcilable; his whole policy was obstruction. What he could not realize was, that during his ten years of absence the whole country had moved away from the position it had occupied before the outbreak of the rebellion; and, in moving away, it had left him hopelessly behind. His only programme was {105} uncompromising opposition to the government which had forgiven him, and the vague dream of founding an independent French republic on the banks of the St Lawrence. In the brief session of 1848 he attempted, but without success, to block the wheels of government. Now, in the second session, the fateful session of 1849, he delivered one of his old-time reckless philippics denouncing the tyrannical British power, the Act of Union—the very measure he was supposed to have battled for—responsible government, and, above all, those of his own race who supported the new order. LaFontaine took up the gauntlet. His retort was as obvious as it was crushing. If the French Canadians had refused to come in under the Act of Union, they would have been depriving themselves of any share whatever in the government of their country. If they had refused to come in, Papineau would not have been permitted to return, or to sit once more as a legislator and a free man in the national parliament. The reply was unanswerable, and it put a period to the influence of Papineau. Foiled and discredited, the old leader was never again to sway the masses of his countrymen as the moon sways the tides. His day was done. None the less, {106} the prestige of his name drew after him a small following of the younger and more ardent men to whom he taught the pure Radical doctrine. In L'Avenir, the propagandist journal which he founded, he preached repeal of the Union and annexation to the United States. Before long he abandoned an arena in which he was no longer the great central figure for dignified seclusion on his seigneury of Montebello beside the noble Ottawa.

In spite of all blind opposition a broad and enlightened programme of legislation was carried out. Nearly two hundred measures, many of prime importance, stand to the credit of this busy session. The vexed question of a provincial university was finally settled. Baldwin's bill for the founding of the University of Toronto, which had been laid to one side by the Metcalfe crisis, was taken up again and carried through all its stages to the status of a law. Conceived as the apex and crown of a comprehensive scheme of education as broad as the province, the University of Toronto more than met the hopes of its founder. A straight road had been devised from the first class in the common school to the highest department of collegiate instruction. The needs of the {107} democracy had not been neglected, but wise and ample provision had been made for the ambitious and aspiring few. How completely the university has justified its existence is attested by the spectacle of both political parties competing with each other in their benevolence towards an honoured, national foundation. By the multiplying generations of Toronto graduates the name of Robert Baldwin should be held in high esteem as of the man who made possible the seat of learning they are so proud to name their alma mater.

Another wise measure for which Baldwin deserves no little praise is the Municipal Corporations Act. The title has a dry, legal look, and will suggest little or nothing to the general reader except, possibly, red tape. Moreover, the system by which the subdivisions of the country—the county, the township, the incorporated village—govern themselves seems so obvious and works so smoothly in actual practice that it seems part of the order of nature, and must have existed from the time beyond which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. But the present extended system of home rule in Canada did not descend from heaven complete, like the {108} Twelve Tables. It was a gradual growth, or evolution, from the old system, by which the local justices of the peace, sitting in quarter sessions, assessed the local taxes, with the difference that it was not an unconscious growth. The plant set by Sydenham's hand was tended, cultivated, and brought to maturity by Baldwin. The measure, as it became law in 1849, has proved to be of the greatest practical value; it has won the approval of competent critics; and it has served as a model for the organization of other provinces. Commonplace and humdrum as this measure may seem to Canadians in the actual domestic working of it, there are other parts of the Empire—Ireland, for example—which were to lag long behind. The lack of such privileges is a grievance elsewhere. Even to-day, the rural districts of England have not as extensive powers of self-government as the counties of Ontario. If the farmers of the Tenth Concession had to go to Ottawa and see a bill through the House every time they wanted a new school, if they had months of waiting for proper authorization, not to mention expenses of legislation to meet, they might appreciate more keenly the advantages they enjoy in virtue of this {109} forgotten Act of 1849. The lover of the picturesque will not regret that terms with the historic colour of 'reeve' and 'warden' were made part and parcel of a democratic system in the New World.

It was a session of constructive statesmanship. The judicial system of the province needed to be revised, extended, and simplified; and these things were done. The economic condition of Canada was anything but satisfactory. For years the country had 'enjoyed a preference' in the British markets, in accordance with the old, plausible theory that mother country and colony were best held together by trade arrangements of mutual advantage, by which the colony should supply the mother country with raw material and the mother country should supply the colony with manufactured products. Suddenly all Canada's business was dislocated by Peel's adoption of free trade in 1846. In consequence Canada had no longer any advantage in the British market over the rest of the world, and Canadian timber-merchants and grain-growers had an undoubted grievance. The general commercial depression, which had set in at the time of the rebellions, became worse and worse. {110} Lord Elgin's often-quoted words picture the deplorable state of the country: 'Property in most of the Canadian towns, and more especially in the capital, has fallen fifty per cent in value within the last three years. Three-fourths of the commercial men are bankrupt, owing to free trade; a large proportion of the exportable produce of Canada is obliged to seek a market in the United States. It pays a duty of twenty per cent on the frontier. How long can such a state of things be expected to endure?' For a remedy the active mind of Hincks turned to the obvious alternative of the British market, the natural market just across the line; and he opened up negotiations with the United States looking towards reciprocal trade. He could scarcely obtain a hearing. The way was blocked by the complete indifference of the United States Senate towards the whole project. Not until five years later did relief come; and it came through the initiative and personal diplomacy of Lord Elgin. To him belongs the credit for the famous Reciprocity Treaty of 1854. This signifies that for the twelve years during which the treaty was in force the artificial barriers to the currents of trade between {111} adjacent countries were, to a large extent, removed, certainly to the great advantage of all British North America. It was a unique period in Canadian history. Never before had the trade relations between Canada and the United States been so friendly, and never have they been so friendly since.

In another great enterprise of national importance Hincks was more successful. The forties of the nineteenth century saw the first great era of railway building. This novel method of transportation was perceived to have immense undeveloped possibilities. In Britain, where steam traction was invented, companies were formed by the score and lines were projected in every direction. It was a time of wild speculation, in which emerged for the first time the new type of company promoter. From England the rage for railways spread to the Continent and to America. While Hincks was working at the problem in Canada, Howe was working at it in Nova Scotia. To link the East with the West, Montreal with Toronto, Montreal with the Atlantic seaboard, Montreal with the Lake Champlain waterways to the southward, was the general design of the first Canadian railways. It was in this period that the first {112} sections were built of those Canadian lines which, in half a century, have grown into immense systems radiating across the continent. Hincks's idea was to aid private enterprise by government guarantees of the interest on half the cost of construction. Canada is now laced with iron roads from ocean to ocean. The man who laid the foundation of these immense systems in the day of small beginnings should never be forgotten.

So the busy session went on, until a measure was introduced which aroused a storm of opposition, threatened a renewal of civil war, and tested the principle of responsible government almost to the breaking strain. This was the Act of Indemnification, a part of the bitter aftermath of the rebellion twelve years before.

War, even on the smallest scale, means the destruction of property. In the troubles of '37 buildings were burned down in the course of military operations. For example, good Father Paquin of St Eustache had long to mourn the loss of his church and the adjoining school. As it stood on a point of land at the junction of two streams and was strongly built of stone, it was an excellent {113} place of defence against the attack of Colborne's troops. On the fatal fourteenth of December 1837 it was stoutly held by Chenier and his men, until two British officers broke into the sacristy and overset the stove. Soon the fire drove the garrison out of the building, which was destroyed along with the new school-house near by. His parishioners were loyal, Father Paquin contended in a well-reasoned petition; it was not they but the discontented people of Grand Brule who had seized the town; yet the result was ruin. In the affair of Odelltown in 1838 a citizen's barn was burnt down by orders of the British officer commanding because it gave shelter to the rebels. Near St Eustache the Swiss adventurer and leader of the rebels, Amury Girod, took possession of a farm belonging to a loyal Scottish family. His men cut down the trees about the farm-house, fortified it rudely, and lived in it at rack and manger until Colborne came to St Eustache. These were typical cases of loss, and surely, when order was again restored, they were cases for compensation. The loyal and the innocent should not have to suffer in their goods for their innocence and their loyalty.


Claims for compensation were made early. In the very year of the rebellion the Assembly of Upper Canada passed an Act appointing commissioners to inquire into the amount of damage done to the property of loyal citizens; and in the following year it voted a sum of L4000 to make good the losses. Men were paid for a cow driven off, or for an old musket commandeered. The Special Council of Lower Canada made similar provision, as was only natural and right; but its task was much harder than that of the Assembly's. Clearly, the property of loyalists destroyed or injured during the civil strife should be made good. This was mere justice. It was equally clear that the property of open rebels which had been destroyed or injured should not be made good. But there was a third category not so easy to deal with. There were those who were not openly in rebellion, but who were grievously suspect of sympathy with declared insurgents of their own race and religion. How far sympathy might have become aid and comfort to opponents of the government was hard to say. The village of St Eustache, for example, was set on fire the night following the fight; the troops turned out in the bitter cold to fight the fire, {115} but did not master it until some eighty houses were burned. What claim could the owners have upon the government for their losses? In the winter of 1838 the sky was red with the flames of burning hamlets, says the Montreal Herald.

The law's delay is proverbial. Compensatory legislation dragged its slow length along for years, and the loyalists who had suffered in their pocket saw session after session pass, and their claims still unsatisfied. In 1840 the Assembly of Upper Canada passed an Act authorizing the expenditure not of four thousand, but of forty thousand pounds, to indemnify the loyalists who had lost by the 'troubles.' However, as the Assembly, at the same time, forbore to provide any funds for the purpose, the Act remained with the force of a pious wish. The claimants for compensation were none the better for it. Then came the union of the Canadas. Five more years rolled away, and, in spite of the usual siege operations of those who have money claims against a government, nothing was done. The various barns and cows and muskets were still a dead loss. Then in 1845 the Tory administration of Draper put the necessary finishing touch to the quaker act of 1840 by {116} providing the sum of money required. By drawing on the receipts from tavern licences collected in Upper Canada over a period of four years, the government was in the possession of L38,000 for this specific purpose. But, after the Union, it was manifestly unjust to pay rebellion losses, as they came to be known, in Upper Canada and not in Lower Canada. The Reformers of Lower Canada pointed out with emphasis the manifest injustice of such a proceeding. It therefore became necessary to extend the scope of the Act. Accordingly, in November 1845, a commission consisting of five persons was appointed to investigate the claims for 'indemnity for just losses sustained' during the rebellion in Lower Canada. This commission was instructed to distinguish between the loyal and the rebellious, but, in making this vital distinction, they were not to 'be guided by any other description of evidence than that furnished by the sentences of the courts of law.' The commission was also given to understand that its investigation was not to be final. It was to prepare only a 'general estimate' which would be subject to more particular scrutiny and revision. Appointed in the end of November 1845, the {117} commission had finished its task and was ready to report in April 1846. Its 'general estimate' was a handsome total of more than L240,000; it gave as its opinion that L100,000 would cover all the 'just losses sustained.' Of the larger amount, it is said that L25,000 was claimed by those who had actually been convicted of treason by court-martial. Not unnaturally an outcry rose at once against taking public money to reward treason. The report could not very well be acted upon; and the government voted L10,000 to pay claims in Lower Canada which had been certified before the union of the provinces. Another delay of three years followed, until LaFontaine took the matter up in the session of 1849.

His general idea was simply to continue and complete the legislation already in force, in order to do justice to those who had 'sustained just losses' in the 'troubles' of '37 and '38. The bill provided for a new commission of five, with power to examine witnesses on oath. In accordance with the finding of the previous commission, the total sum to be expended was limited to L100,000. If the losses exceeded that sum, the individual claims were to be proportionally reduced. {118} The necessary funds were to be raised on twenty-year debentures bearing interest at six per cent. LaFontaine introduced and explained the bill, and Baldwin supported it in a brief speech. It was easy enough, with their unbroken majority, to vote the measure through; but the storm of opposition it raised might have made less determined leaders hesitate or draw back.

The vehemence of the opposition was not due merely to the readiness with which the faction out of power will seize on the weak aspects of a question in order to embarrass the government. Such sham-fight tactics are common enough and may be rated at their proper value. The leaders of the British party were sincere in their belief that the success of this measure meant the triumph of the French and the reversal of all that had been done to hold the colonies for the Empire against rebels whose avowed purpose was separation. Twelve years had gone by since they had failed in the overt act. Now Papineau was back in the House, about to receive his arrears of salary as Speaker. In Elgin's eyes he was a Guy Fawkes waving flaming brands among all sorts of combustibles. Mackenzie had been granted amnesty by the monarch {119} he had called 'the bloody Queen of England.' Wolfred Nelson, who had resisted Her Majesty's forces at St Denis, was to have his claim for damages considered. It was not in the flesh and blood of politicians to endure all this; and before condemning the opposition to this bill, as is the fashion with Canadian historians, we might ask what we should have done ourselves in such circumstances. What the Tories did was to raise the war-cry, 'No pay to rebels.' It resounded from one end of the province to the other and roused to life all the passion that had slumbered since the rebellion.

In the debate on the second reading of the bill a scene almost without parallel took place on the floor of the House. The Tories taunted the French with being 'aliens and rebels.' Blake, the solicitor-general for Upper Canada, retorted the charge, and accused the Tories of being 'rebels to their constitution and country.' In a rage Sir Allan MacNab gave him 'the lie with circumstance,' and the two honourable members made at each other. Only the prompt intervention of the sergeant-at-arms prevented actual assault. The two belligerents were taken into his custody. Some of the excited spectators who {120} hissed and shouted were also taken into custody; and the debate came to a sudden end that day. Those were the days of 'the code,' and why a 'meeting' was not 'arranged' and why Sir Allan did not have an opportunity of using his silver-mounted duelling pistols is not quite clear. The tempers of our politicians have much improved since that violent scene occurred. No slur on the word of an honourable gentleman, no imputation of falsehood, would now be so hotly resented in our legislative halls.

The violence and the excitement which prevailed in parliament were repeated and intensified throughout the country. Everything that could be effected by public meetings, petitions, protests, was done to prevent the bill from passing, or, if it passed, to prevent the governor-general from giving his assent to it, or, as a last resource, to induce the Queen to disallow the obnoxious measure. The whole machinery of agitation was set in motion and speeded up, to prevent the bill becoming law. 'Demonstrations'—in plain English, rows—took place everywhere. Sedate little Belleville was the scene of fierce riots. Effigies of Baldwin, Blake, and Mackenzie were paraded through the streets of Toronto {121} on long poles 'amid the cheers and exultations of the largest concourse of people beheld in Toronto since the election of Dunn and Buchanan.' Finally the effigies were burned in a burlesque auto-da-fe. This ancient English custom was a milder method of expressing political disapproval than the native American invention of tar-and-feathers; but it seems to have been equally soothing to the feelings. An outside observer, the New York Herald, expected the disturbance to end in 'a complete and perfect separation of those provinces from the rule of England'; but in those days American critics were always expecting separation.

No clearer mirror of the crisis is to be found than in the words of the man on whom lay the heaviest responsibility, the governor-general himself. This is his private opinion of the bill: 'The measure itself is not free from objection, and I very much regret that an addition should be made to our debt for such an object at this time. Nevertheless I must say I do not see how my present government could have taken any other course.' He also calls it 'a strict logical following out' of the Tory party's own acts; and he has 'no doubt whatsoever {122} that a great deal of property was wantonly and cruelly destroyed at that time in Lower Canada.' He was petitioned to dissolve parliament if the bill should pass; his judgment on this alternative runs: 'If I had dissolved parliament, I might have produced a rebellion, but most assuredly I should not have produced a change of ministry.' The other alternative of reserving the bill seemed, as he balanced it in his mind, cowardly. He would create no precedent. Bills had been reserved before, and had been refused the royal sanction; to reserve this one would be no departure from established custom; but, he writes to Lord Grey, 'by reserving the Bill, I should only throw upon Her Majesty's Government ... a responsibility which rests, and ought, I think, to rest, on my own shoulders.' The sentences which follow evince an ideal of public service that can only be called knightly. The executive head of the government was ready to face failure and disgrace, to the ruin of his career, rather than shirk the responsibility which was really his. 'If I pass the Bill, whatever mischief ensues may possibly be repaired, if the worst comes to the worst, by the sacrifice of me. Whereas {123} if the case be referred to England, it is not impossible that Her Majesty may have before her the alternative of provoking a rebellion in Lower Canada ... or of wounding the susceptibilities of some of the best subjects she has in the province.' From the first Elgin had firmly made up his mind to fill the role of constitutional governor; he believed that the best justification of Durham's memory, and of what he had done in Canada, would be a governor-general working out fairly the Dictator's views of government. Although he had definitely made up his mind what course of action to follow, he was never betrayed into committing himself before the proper time. Deputations waited on him with provocative addresses; but none was cunning enough to snare him in his speech. The 'sacrifice' came soon enough.

In spite of all the furies of opposition within the House and out of it, the Indemnity Bill passed by a majority of more than two to one. The next question was what would Lord Elgin do? Would he give his assent to the bill, the finishing vice-regal touch which would make it law, or would he reserve it for Her Majesty's sanction? Some unnamed {124} persons of respectability had a shrewd suspicion of what he would do, as the sequel proved. An accident hastened the crisis. In 1849 the navigation of the St Lawrence opened early; and on the twenty-fifth of April the first vessel of the season was sighted approaching the port of Montreal. In order to make his new Tariff Bill immediately operative on the nearing cargo, Hincks posted out to 'Monklands,' Lord Elgin's residence, in order to obtain the governor-general's formal assent to this particular bill. The governor did as he was asked. He drove in from 'Monklands' in state to the Parliament House for the purpose. The time seemed opportune to give his assent to several other bills. Among the rest he assented in Her Majesty's name to the 'Act to provide for the indemnification of parties in Lower Canada whose property was destroyed during the Rebellion of 1837 and 1838.' What happened in consequence is best told in his own words. 'When I left the House of Parliament, I was received with mingled cheers and hootings by a crowd by no means numerous, which surrounded the entrance of the building. A small knot of individuals consisting, it has since been {125} ascertained, of persons of a respectable class in society, pelted the carriage with missiles which they must have brought with them for the purpose.' The 'missiles' which could not be picked up in the street were rotten eggs. One of them struck Lord Elgin in the face. That was the Canadian method of expressing disapproval of a governor-general for acting in strict accordance with the principles of responsible government. But this was only part of the price he had to pay for doing right. Worse was to follow.

Immediately after this outrage a notice was issued from one of the newspapers calling an open-air meeting in the Champ de Mars. Towards evening the excitement increased, and the fire-bells jangled a tocsin to call the people into the streets. The Champ de Mars soon filled with a tumultuous mob, roaring its approbation of wild speeches which denounced the 'tyranny' of the governor-general and the Reformers. A cry arose, 'To the Parliament House!' and the mob streamed westward, wrecking in its passage the office of Hincks's paper the Pilot. The House was in session, and though warned by Sir Allan MacNab that a riot was in progress, it hesitated to take the extreme step of {126} calling out the military to protect its dignity. At this time the whole police force of the city numbered only seventy-two men, and, in emergencies, law and order were maintained with the aid of the regiments in garrison, or by a force of special constables. Soon the House found that Sir Allan's warning was against no imaginary danger. Volleys of stones suddenly crashed through the lighted windows, and the members fled for their lives. The rabble flowed into the building and took possession of the Assembly hall. Here they broke in pieces the furniture, the fittings, the chandeliers. One of the rioters, a man with a broken nose, seated himself in the Speaker's chair and shouted, 'I dissolve this House.' It seems like a scene from a Paris emeute rather than an actual event in a staid Canadian city. Soon a cry was heard, 'The Parliament House is on fire.' Another band of rioters had set the western wing alight, and, in a quarter of an hour, the whole building was a mass of flames. Although the firemen turned out promptly, they were forcibly prevented by the mob from doing their duty, until the soldiers came to their support, and then it was too late to save the building. Next day only the ruined walls {127} were standing. The Library of Parliament was burned in spite of efforts to save it, and the student of Canadian history will always mourn the loss of irreplaceable records and manuscripts in that tragic blaze. One thing was rescued. Young Sandford Fleming and three others carried out the portrait of the Queen. It was almost as gallant an act as rescuing the Lady in person.

Nor was the destruction of the Parliament Building the final outbreak. Next evening the mob was at its work again, attacking the houses or lodgings of the various Reform leaders. LaFontaine's government ordered the arrest of four ringleaders in the last night's riot. In revenge his house was entered forcibly, the furniture smashed, the library destroyed, and the stable set on fire. In fact, for three days Montreal was like a city in revolution. A thousand special constables, armed with pistols and cutlasses, in addition to the soldiery were needed to restore something like order in the streets. But the rioting was not over even yet. The most violent scene of all took place on the thirtieth of April. The House was naturally incensed at the insults offered to the governor-general and drew up an address expressing the {128} members' detestation of mob violence, their loyalty to the Queen, and their approval of his just and impartial administration. It was decided to present the address to him, not at the suburban seat of 'Monklands,' but publicly at Government House, the Chateau de Ramezay in the heart of the city. Such a decision showed no little courage on both sides, but the end was almost a tragedy. Lord Elgin came very near being murdered in the streets of Montreal. On the day appointed he drove into the city, having for escort a troop of volunteer dragoons. All through the streets his carriage was pelted with stones and other missiles, and his entry to Government House was blocked by a howling mob. His escort forced the crowd to give way, and the governor-general entered, carrying with him a two-pound stone which had been hurled into his carriage. It was a piece of unmistakable evidence as to the treatment the Queen's representative in Canada had received at the hands of Her Majesty's faithful subjects. When the ceremony was over he attempted to avoid trouble by taking a different route back to 'Monklands,' but he was discovered, and literally hunted out of the city. 'Cabs, {129} caleches, and everything that would run were at once launched in pursuit, and crossing his route, the governor-general's carriage was bitterly assailed in the main street of the St Lawrence suburbs. The good and rapid driving of his postilions enabled him to clear the desperate mob, but not till the head of his brother, Colonel Bruce, had been cut, injuries inflicted on the chief of police, Colonel Ermatinger, and on Captain Jones, commanding the escort, and every panel of the carriage driven in.' Even at 'Monklands' Lord Elgin was not entirely safe. The mob threatened to attack him there, and the house was put in a state of defence. Ladies of his household driving to church were insulted. To avoid occasion of strife he remained quietly at his country-seat; and, for his consideration of the public weal, was ridiculed, caricatured, and dubbed, in contempt, the Hermit of Monklands.

The riots did not end without bloodshed. Once more the rioters attacked LaFontaine's house by night; shots were fired from the windows on the mob, and one man was killed. The appeal to racial passion was irresistible. A man of British blood had been slain by a Frenchman. The funeral {130} of the chance victim was made a political demonstration. LaFontaine was actually tried for complicity in the accident, but was acquitted. Montreal underwent something like a Reign of Terror; a murderous clash between French and English might come at any moment. Elgin was urged to proclaim martial law and put down mob rule by the use of troops. Wisely he refused to go to such extremes. The city authorities themselves should restore order, and at last they did so with their thousand special constables. Those April riots of '49 cost Montreal the honour of being the capital of Canada, and ultimately caused the transformation of queer little lumbering Bytown into the stately city of Ottawa, proudly eminent, with the halls of legislature towering on the great bluff above the glassy river.

Of Elgin's conduct during this long-drawn ordeal it is almost impossible to speak in terms of moderate praise. He must have been less or more than human not to feel bitterly the insults heaped upon him. The natural man spoke in the American who 'could not understand why you did not shoot them down'; and also in the Canadian {131} who 'would have reduced Montreal to ashes' before enduring half that the governor endured. But Elgin acted not as the natural man, but as the Christian and the statesman, He refused to meet violence with violence; and he refused to nullify the principles of popular government by bowing before the blast of popular clamour. But a more unpopular governor-general never held office in Canada.




The storm raised by the Rebellion Losses Bill did not soon sink to a calm. It did not end with rabbling the viceroy, burning the House of Parliament, homicide, and mob rule in the streets of Montreal. In the British House of Commons the whole matter was thoroughly discussed. Young Mr Disraeli, the dandified Jewish novelist, held that there were no rebels in Upper Canada, while young Mr Gladstone, 'the rising hope of those stern and unbending Tories,' proved that there were virtual rebels who would be rewarded for their treason under the Canadian statute. In a letter to The Times Hincks showed, in rebuttal, that rebels in Upper Canada had already received compensation by the Act of a Tory government. Who says A must also say B. Between the arguments of Gladstone and Hincks it is perfectly clear that the Rebellion Losses Bill was anything but a perfect measure. Its passage had one {133} more important reaction, the Annexation movement of 1849.

This episode in Canadian history is usually slurred over by our writers. It is considered to be a national disgrace, a shameful confession of cowardice, like an attempt at suicide in a man. It did undoubtedly show want of faith in the future. Those who organized the movement did 'despair of the republic.' But it is possible to blame them too much. Annexation to the United States was in the air. Lord Elgin writes that it was considered to be the remedy for every kind of Canadian discontent. He was haunted by the fear of it all through his tenure of office. Annexation had been preached by the Radical journals for years in Canada; and it was confidently expected by politicians in the United States. As late as 1866 a bill providing for the admission of the states of Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, etc., to the Union passed two readings in the House of Representatives. The Dominion elections of a quarter of a century later (1891) gave the death-blow to the notion that Annexation was Canada's manifest destiny; but the idea died hard.

Action and reaction are equal and opposite. {134} Embittered by defeat, the very party that had stood like a rock for British connection now moved definitely for separation. The circular issued by the Annexation Association of Montreal is a document too seldom studied, but it repays study. In tone it is the reverse of inflammatory; it is markedly temperate and reasonable. After a dispassionate review of the present situation, it considers the possibilities that lie before the colony—federal union, independence, or reciprocity with the United States. All that Goldwin Smith was to say about Canada's manifest destiny is said here. His ideas and arguments are perfectly familiar to the Annexationists of '49. The appeal at the close contains this sentence:

Fellow-Colonists, We have thus laid before you our views and convictions on a momentous question—involving a change which, though contemplated by many of us with varied feelings and emotions, we all believe to be inevitable;—one which it is our duty to provide for, and lawfully to promote.

There were those who protested against Annexation; but they were denounced as {135} 'known monopolists and protectionists.' One speaker said: 'Were it necessary I might multiply citation on citation to prove that England considers, and has for years considered, our present relations to her both burdensome and unprofitable.' Another said: 'It is admitted, I may almost say, on all hands, that Canada must eventually form a portion of the Great American Republic—that it is a mere question of time.' There follows a list of some nine hundred names, beginning with John Torrance and ending with Andrew Stevenson. There are French names as well as English. Some bearers of those names to-day are not proud of the fact that they are to be found in that list. One Tory refused to sign the manifesto: his monument bears the inscription, 'A British subject I was born, a British subject I will die.'

The manifesto was supported by various pamphleteers and journalists. Elgin records his fear of the 'cry for Annexation spreading like wildfire through the province.' But it did not spread 'like wildfire.' The original impulse, which may have been partly 'petulance,' seemed to spend itself. Not all English opinion was in favour of 'cutting the painter'; and one of the most determined {136} opponents of Annexation was that very alert politician, the young Queen. Equally determined was the governor-general of Canada. 'To render Annexation by violence impossible, and by any other means, as improbable as may be, is,' he wrote, 'the polar star of my policy.' When he could, he showed clearly enough what his policy was. The manifesto of the Annexationists contained not a few names of men holding office under the government, magistrates, queen's counsel, militia officers, and others. Elgin had a circular letter sent to these eminently respectable persons holding commissions at the pleasure of the Crown, asking pertinently if they had really signed the document in question. Some affirmed, and some denied; others, again, questioned the governor's right to make the inquiry. He then removed from office all who did not disavow their signatures as well as those who admitted them. His action had an excellent effect and showed that he was no weakling. He was warmly supported by the colonial secretary, Earl Grey. Hitherto he had been only a peer of Scotland, but now, in token of the government's approval, was made a peer of the United Kingdom. Soon the commercial conditions, {137} which had no small part in the political discontent, began to mend.

The services of Hincks to his adopted country at this time were of the greatest value. A financier as well as a journalist, he was able to secure the capital needed for the great public works, and to set the resources of Canada before the British investor in a most convincing way. The Welland Canal was completed; the era of railway development began. Immigration increased and business began to lift its head. In 1849 the last of the old Navigation Laws, which forbade foreign ships to trade with Canada, were repealed. They were an inheritance from the imperialism of Cromwell, but were now outworn. Although the Maritime Provinces did not benefit, the port of Montreal began to come to its own, as the head of navigation. In 1850 nearly a hundred foreign vessels sought its wharves.

The next session of parliament was held in Toronto, according to the odd agreement by which that city was to alternate with Quebec as the seat of government. Every four years the government with all its impedimenta was to migrate from the one to the other. The Liberal party was soon to find that a crushing {138} victory at the polls and a puny opposition in the House were not unmixed blessings. It began to fall apart by its own sheer weight. A Radical wing, both English and French, soon developed. The 'Clear Grit' party in Upper Canada was moving straight towards republicanism, and so was Papineau's Parti Rouge, with its organ L'Avenir openly preaching Annexation. Canadian eyes were still dazzled by the marvellously rapid growth of the United States. American democracy was manifestly triumphant, and Canada's shortest road to equal prosperity lay through direct imitation. Salvation was to be found in the universal application of the elective principle, from policeman to governor. This was before the unforeseen tendencies of democracy had startled Americans out of their attitude of self-complacent belief in it, and converted them first into thoroughgoing critics, and then into determined reformers of the system that they once thought flawless. The legislation of the session of 1849-50 has still measures of value. Canada for the first time assumed full control of her own postal system. The principle of separate schools for Roman Catholics was confirmed, a measure which reveals Canada in sharp contrast to the {139} United States, where sectarian teaching is excluded from a state-aided school system. Not a single bill was 'reserved,' which the Globe called a fact 'unprecedented in Canadian history.' The colony was now entirely free to manage its own affairs, well or ill, to misgovern itself if it chose to do so. Lord Elgin had almost laid down his life for this idea; henceforth it was never to be called in question.

Two outstanding grievances were finally removed by the Great Administration during this session. They were both land questions; one afflicted the English, and the other the French, half of the province. For a whole decade the grievance of the Clergy Reserves had slumbered; now it came up for settlement. The Clergy Reserves were finally secularized. Hincks, the astute parliamentary hand, led the House in requesting the British parliament to repeal the Act of 1840. This was the first step, preliminary to devoting the unappropriated land to the maintenance of the school system. In voting on this measure LaFontaine opposed, while Baldwin supported it. The divergence of opinion marked the weakening of the ministry.

The other question, which affected French {140} Canada, was the seigneurial tenure of the land. The system was an inheritance from the time of Richelieu. Unlike the English, who allowed their colonies to grow up haphazard, the French, from the first, organized and regulated theirs according to a definite scheme. Upon the banks of the St Lawrence they established the feudal system of holding land, the only system they knew. There were the seigneurs, or landlords, with their permanent tenants, or censitaires. There were the ancient usages—cens et rentes, lods et ventes, droit de banalite.[1] the seigneurs' court, and so on. Seigneuries were also established in Acadia; but they were bought out by the Crown about 1730, after the cession of that province to Great Britain. In the opinion of such authorities as Sulte and Munro the seigneurial system answered its purpose very well. At first the French would not have it touched. In the troubles of '37 the simple habitants thought they were fighting for the abolition of the seigneurs' dues. By the middle of the nineteenth century it had become almost as complete an anomaly as trial by combat. But the question of reform bristled with difficulties. {141} Which were the rightful owners of the eight million arpents of land—the seigneurs, or the censitaires? To whom should all this land be given? Was there a third method, adjustment of rights with adequate compensation? The Reformers were not agreed among themselves. Some were for abolition of the seigneurs' rights: some were for voluntary arrangement with the aid of law. LaFontaine was averse from change, and Papineau, who was himself a seigneur, held by the ancient usages. The whole question was referred to a committee, but all attempts to deal with it during the sessions of 1850 and 1851 came to nothing. Not until 1854 was definite action taken. All feudal rights and duties, whether bearing on censitaire or seigneur, were abolished by law, and a double court was appointed to inquire into the claims of all parties and to secure compensation in equity for the loss of the seigneurs' vested interests. It took five years of patient investigation, and over ten million dollars, to get rid of this anomaly, but at last it was accomplished to the benefit of the country. Says Bourinot, 'The money was well spent in bringing about so thorough a revolution in so peaceable and conclusive a manner.'


Both these questions gave rise to differences of opinion in the Cabinet. The Clear Grits, or Radical wing, were in constant opposition, simply because the progress of Reform was not rapid enough. William Lyon Mackenzie, once more in parliament, rendered them effective aid. In June 1851 he brought in a motion to abolish the Court of Chancery, which had been reorganized by Baldwin only two years before and seemed to be working fairly well. Although the motion was defeated Baldwin realized that the leadership of the party was passing from him and his friends, and he resigned from office at the end of the month. One of the pleasing episodes in the history of Canadian parliaments was Sir Allan MacNab's sincere expression of regret on the retirement of his political opponent. There are few enough of such amenities. In October of the same year LaFontaine also resigned, sickened of political life. A letter of his to Baldwin, as early as 1845, lifts the veil. 'I sincerely hope,' he says, 'I will never be placed in a situation to be obliged to take office again. The more I see the more I feel disgusted. It seems as if duplicity, deceit, want of sincerity, selfishness were virtues. It gives me a poor idea of {143} human nature.' This is not the utterance of a cynic, but of an honest man smarting from disillusion. His exit from public life was final. He was made chief justice for Lower Canada and presided with distinction over the sessions of the Seigneurial Court. His political career thus closed while he was yet a young man with years of valuable service before him. Baldwin attempted to re-enter political life. The resignation of the two leaders involved a new election, and Baldwin was defeated in his own 'pocket borough' by Hartman, a Clear Grit. That was the end. He retired to his estate 'Spadina,' his health shattered by his close attention to the service of the state. He was an entirely honest politician, deservedly remembered for the integrity of his life and his share in upbuilding Canada. So the Great Administration reached its period.

It was succeeded by a ministry in which Hincks and Morin were the leaders. The new parliament included a new force in politics, George Brown, creator of the Globe newspaper. A Scot by birth, a Radical in politics, hard-headed, bitter of speech, a foe to compromise, with Caledonian fire and fondness for facts, he soon commanded a large {144} following in the country and became a dreaded critic in the House. He had disapproved of the late ministry for its failure to carry out the programme approved by the Globe, especially the secularization of the Clergy Reserves. He became the Protestant champion, the denouncer of such acts as that of the Pope in dividing England into Roman Catholic sees and naming Cardinal Wiseman Archbishop of Westminster, and the pugnacious foe of 'French domination.' His activities did not tend to draw French and English closer together. He lacked the gift of his successful rival, John A. Macdonald, for making friends and inspiring personal loyalty.

The Hincks-Morin government was a business man's administration. It is noteworthy for its successful promotion of various railway, maritime, and commercial enterprises. It aided in the establishment of a line of steamers to Britain by offering a substantial subsidy for the carriage of mails, a policy which has continued, with the approval of the nation, to the present time. It was this ministry also which pushed the building of the Grand Trunk, and ultimately succeeded in creating a national highway from Riviere du Loup to {145} Sarnia and Windsor. This was the era of reckless railway speculation. Municipalities were empowered to borrow money on debentures for railway building guaranteed by the provincial government. Unfortunately they borrowed extravagant sums and ran into debt, from which, at last, the province had to rescue them. But, unlike what happened in the case of some of the American states, there was no repudiation of debts by Canadian municipalities.

The year 1851 is likewise famous for the Great Exhibition. Britain had adopted free trade, to her great advantage. All the nations of the world were expected to follow her example and remove the barriers to commerce to the benefit of all. The freedom of intercourse between nation and nation was to slay the jealousy and suspicion which lead to war. To inaugurate the new era of peace and unfettered trade the Crystal Palace was reared in Hyde Park—'the palace made of windies,' as Thackeray calls it—and filled with the products of the world. The idea originated with the Prince Consort, and it was worthy of him. For the first time the various nations could compare their resources and manufactures with one another. Canada {146} had her share in it. As a demonstration of general British superiority in manufactures the Great Exhibition was a great success; but as heralding an era of universal peace it was a mournful failure. Three years later England, France, and Sardinia were fighting Russia to prop the rotten empire of the Turk. Then came the Great Mutiny; then the four years of fratricidal strife between the Northern and Southern States; then the war of Prussia and Austria; then the overthrow of France by Germany. All these events had their influence on Canada. The 100th Regiment was raised in Canada for the Crimea. Joseph Howe went to New York on a desperate recruiting mission. Nova Scotia ordained a public fast on the news of the massacre of white women and children by the Sepoys. Thousands of Canadians enlisted in the Northern armies. The Papal Zouaves went from Quebec to the aid of the Pope against Garibaldi. All these were symptoms that Canadians were beginning to outgrow their narrow provincialism and to perceive their relations to the outer world, and especially towards Britain. The country was reaching out towards the role which in our own day she has played in the Great War.


Meanwhile Lord Elgin was playing his part as constitutional governor, standing by his principle of accepting democracy even when democracy went wrong. Though inconspicuous, he was always planning for the benefit of the country he had in charge. He had visions of an Imperial zollverein, but he perceived clearly the immense and immediate advantages of freer trade relations between the British American colonies and the United States. Those once attained, he thought the danger of Annexation past. His activities in his last year of office prove that a man of ability may be a strictly constitutional governor and yet preserve a power of initiative, of almost inestimable value. In 1853 Lord Elgin paid a visit to England, and while there obtained full powers to negotiate with the United States. For several years Hincks had been doing his best to induce the American government to consider the question of reciprocity in natural products with Canada, but without avail. Bills to this effect had even been introduced into Congress; but they never got beyond the preliminary stages. New England was inclined to favour the proposal, for agriculture was declining there before the growth of {148} manufactures. The South favoured reciprocity rather than Annexation, for the 'irrepressible conflict' between the slave states and the free states was every day coming closer to observant eyes, and including Canada in the Union meant a great accession of strength to the already populous North. Opposition came from the farmers of the Northern states, who feared the competition of a country, as yet, almost entirely devoted to agriculture. General indifference, the opposition of a section, combined with the feeling that Canada had nothing adequate to offer in return for access to the huge American market, removed reciprocity from the domain of practical politics. The scale was turned by the codfish question.

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